Dec 17 2010 By Jon Batham
GORDON Bartlett hailed his team as heroes after they emerged beaten but unbowed from a last-gasp FA Trophy exit to Newport .
Stones, whose preparations were once again disrupted by defensive pull-outs and Saturday’s hero Jonathan North playing despite a recurrence of his recent migraine problems, resisted gallantly for almost two hours on Monday.
They got to within a minute of the spot-kick lottery through a mixture of bravery and sheer bloody-mindedness, with North again superb and Alan Massey a colossus in front of him. And though John Challinor’s 119th-minute winner shattered their cup dream, Bartlett admitted it was one of the most memorable moments of his long career in the dugout.
He said: "There’s not been many prouder moments in my 25 years in football management.
"There would have been another chapter of my book the way things have gone this week with Jonathan’s illness and players pulling out.
"To hold a Conference side who are full-time and a very good outfit the way we have done for the two games - they’ve got to take a lot of belief out of that."
In the end the tie came down to 45 seconds of action at the death.
Wealdstone’s chance for a fairytale win came on 118 minutes when Danny Spendlove surged forward and released substitute Ben Long on the right of the Newport area.
His crisp shot beat County keeper Glyn Thompson but went agonisingly wide, with Stones’ other substitute Greg Ngoyi just unable to reach the ball.
In the very next attack County sub Sam Deering crossed from the right and John Challinor, who had not long come on, stabbed the ball inside the near post.
There was no denying Newport were the better side, creating numerous chances. Craig Reid hit the underside of the bar in the first half, while Massey’s brilliant tackle denied Daryl Knights an almost certain goal.
After the break, first Massey and then Chappell cleared Sam Foley efforts off the line.
Chappell’s heroics led to a corner from which a Chris Tod header led to another goal-line clearance from Alex Dyer. Minutes later Reid rounded North, only to hit the post.
And North, who was sick in the dressing room at half-time, ensured extra time with another point-blank stop from Ben Wright.
For all that, Newport fans around the press box were unanimous that Stones, who went close early on through Chris O’Leary’s header, deserved the honour of penalties which they were so cruelly denied.